There are a lot of ways to deal with stress, anxiety, and depression – all things that are associated with the victims of trauma and PTSD. Therapy is always a great idea, and meditation, community support, and positive self talk are all key. But one area that often gets overlooked is also the one that’s the most fun – sports and exercise!
When people suffer physical trauma, it leaves its scars not only on the body but on the mind too. It makes sense, then, that if we want to make the mind healthier we should also work on making the body stronger. After all, human beings aren’t compartmentalized with separate body, mind, and emotions. We are holistic creatures, and what happens to one part of us affects the rest.
Exercise and sports have a wide range of benefits for people with PTSD. Of course, there are the usual ones that everyone gets out of exercise – better cardiovascular health, weight loss, and more energy. But for those with PTSD, anxiety, or depression, there are even more good things that come from having an active lifestyle. One study reported by the National Institute of health showed that exercise provides:
- Decrease in depression
- Better sleep
- Reduced anxiety
- Overall reduction in PTSD symptoms
For anyone suffering from these symptoms, it should be empowering to learn that you have the ability to help control them simply by getting up and moving around.
But, of course, nothing is ever as simple as it should be. While exercise has been clinically proven to help reduce the symptoms of PTSD, those who suffer from it are less likely than others to actually do it. There are a number of reasons for this.
First, PTSD is associated with depression. Depression usually includes a lack of motivation, low energy, and generally shutting down and cutting yourself off. It is hard to get up and exercise when you are depressed, even if you know that it will help make you feel better.
Second, exercise causes many bodily symptoms that can increase anxiety in a person with PTSD. For most people, the rush of getting their blood flowing and their heart rate up during exercise is exciting. But when you have PTSD, it can feel like a panic attack, with your heart racing and feeling short of breath. People who do not suffer from anxiety can’t understand how terrifying this can be. So many who deal with these symptoms avoid anything that can make them feel that way.
Finally, people with PTSD often engage in self destructive behaviors, like smoking and using alcohol, which in turn make it harder to exercise.
Despite these obstacles, the benefits are just too many to ignore. exercise and sports can be a key to getting your PTSD under control. One of the best ways to help overcome them is to join a team. Exercise doesn’t have to be boring hours on the treadmill. There are all kinds of sports to choose from, and most areas have adult teams that get together to play and practice. When you join a team sport, you don’t just get the benefits of exercise. You also get to tap into a supportive and united community that is built to help make everyone stronger and better. Since PTSD can often lead to isolation, team sports are a great way to build connection and friendship while also working the body and having a great time.
Exercise can be hard for someone with PTSD, but it can help make your life so much better. Every day you get active, you become stronger, more energetic, less depressed, and feel better. And when you do it with other people, you get to enjoy the benefits of friendship, community, and support. Don’t be afraid to get out there – you’ll be glad you did!